A Chicago woman who last month became the nation’sHe said Thursday that he woke up days later, unaware of the surgery and unable to “recognize my body.”
Mayra Ramirez said that before she fell ill, she was an active, independent person who moved from North Carolina to Chicago in 2014 to work as a paralegal. He said he had an autoimmune disease, but was healthy. He had gone for a three-mile walk just before he got sick and was on his way to the hospital.
“I was told to hurry (and) to change,” he said. “They asked me who would make my medical decisions for me. That’s when I told them it would be my mother and older sister living in North Carolina. I only had a couple of minutes to contact them to report. those of what was going on. before it was intuited. “
Ramirez, 28, spoke to the media on Thursday along with Brian Kuhns, 62, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, who followed her as the second U.S. coronavirus patient to undergo a double transplant.
Ramirez underwent a lung transplant on June 5 at Northwest Chicago Memorial Hospital. He did not wake up until mid-June.
“I looked at myself and couldn’t recognize my body,” he said. “I didn’t have the cognitive ability to process what was going on. All I knew was that I wanted water.”
Dr. Ankit Bharat, head of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Lung Transplant Program of Medicine, said Ramirez, who was on a ventilator, fought for six weeks with the virus completely destroying his lungs. Doctors would call Nohemi Romero, her mother in North Carolina, with updates.
Ramirez, sitting next to her mother during a press conference at the hospital, said her family made the trip to Chicago with the intention of saying goodbye.
“Luckily, once they arrived, my mother and my two sisters, the medical team was able to stabilize me,” Ramirez said. “I was told the lung transplant option and my mother accepted it. And, in 48 hours, I received the ten-hour lung transplant.”
Bharat has called Ramirez’s surgery a “milestone” in caring for patients with severe COVID-19.
“Lung transplantation is not for all patients with COVID-19, but it offers some of the critically ill patients another option for survival,” Bharat said. “Mayra and Brian are living proof of that.”
Thoracic surgeon Dr. Rafael Garza Castillon said Northwestern is now studying performing the procedure with other patients who have removed the virus and who have no other major organ failure.
“We are all learning together and sharing good practices, and now lung transplantation is part of COVID-19 care,” Bharat said.
Ramirez, who is now at home, said he feels much better, although he is still working to rebuild his strength and endurance. He said he knows there is a family that misses his loved one.
“It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I had the ability, you know, to think to myself that there is a family that is in mourning with their loved one,” Ramirez said. “I have this person’s lungs and the luck I’ve had.”
Kuhns said he thought the virus was a hoax until he contracted it.
“This disease is no joke,” he said. “It hit me like a stronger lead in the head. I was perfectly healthy. That thing hardened me.”